Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A response to: A Few Concerns about the Rush to Flip

I just finished reading an article on the website Faculty Focus. For those who are not familiar, Faculty Focus is a wonderful resource for educators, especially those in higher ed. Dr. Maryellen Weimer wrote abouther concerns regarding flipped courses. I will summarize her major arguments and then address a few of her concerns.

First, “I worry that our affection for the idea of flipping, now supported by a range of wonderful technology options, is causing us to overlook the careful design work involved in guiding those independent learning experiences.”

Second, “Who should be taking flipped courses?

Third, “Does the content of some courses flip more successfully than content in other courses?”

Let me be clear, I am a major proponent of flipped lesson plans, hybrid and blended learning, and effective/pedagogically sound (key) online and distance education. The rush to flip courses is real and prevalent as administrators and department heads seek to obtain relevance and a stake in the online learning landscape.

With that being said I want to reiterate that I am against poor pedagogy in any context, blended, flipped, face-to-face, fully online, etc. Dr. Weimer is correct, courses that are rushed and poorly planned and executed are a disgrace to the academy. Independent learning experiences, student-centered, learning style driven instruction is crucial, however we would be remiss to assume that an independent experience can only be achieved inside the traditional classroom. Independent experiential learning is a necessity in any instructional context. Pedagogy, sound thoughtful pedagogy, is not limited by spatial or technological constraints.

The second concern is also valid, who should take flipped courses…I don’t know (obviously I have assumptions) but if we refuse to allow freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors to take a flipped course are we then limiting the independent nature of instruction? Should we not be able to trust that academic advisers and students can collaborate in such a way that flipped or traditional courses become an option based on the individual student? Limiting who can or should take flipped classes may limit the individual experience of every unique learner. Some freshmen may not be prepared to take a flipped course—however, some seniors may struggle as well. The question may be less about format and more about overall college readiness.

The third concern above is valid but again I believe that if we are approaching a flipped course in the same pedagogical manner as the traditional classroom then we (as instructors) should be able to identify content that may or may not be successful in an online or flipped context. A great question but a question that can be answered with thoughtful instructional design.

More articles like A Few Concerns about the Rush to Flip need to come to the surface as we continue to discuss effective 21st century education for the 21st century learner. May we all, with open minds, discuss and assess the inevitable changes in modern higher education.